A comprehensive history of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on California would surely conclude that the state’s school children have been treated shamefully.
The incessant political squabbling over closing and reopening schools, and the sporadic efforts at in-home learning, have once again demonstrated that the supposed adults who manage and operate public education in California are more focused ontheir own interests than on the wellbeing of students.
California schools were not a roaring success even before pandemic struck more than a year ago. By almost any measure, we lagged behind other states, particularly in meeting the needs of the more than three million students classified as poor or English-learners.
The many billions of dollars that the Legislature appropriated to improve their outcomes under former Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula were often misdirected with little accountability.
When the coronavirus reared its ugly head, schools were quickly shuttered and educators scrambled to replace classroom instruction with at-home instruction via the Internet. But once again, many of the children already at risk of failure were left behind, lacking the resources and/or familial support to participate.
The damage has been huge, widening the already yawning gap between the at-risk students and their more privileged peers.A new reporton impacts in Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school system, reveals the extent of the damage.
LA Unified’s classrooms have been closed for more than a year and will only begin to reopen later this month, largely due to conflicts between the district’s managers and its unions —a syndrome that’s delayed reopening in many large urban districts.
“We may not know the full impact of this last year on our students for another year or more, but the preliminary data we have paints an alarming picture,” the report adds.
Among the Specific Findings, Based on LA Unified’s Own Data:
—40% of LAUSD middle and high schoolers were disengaged or absent from classes in spring 2020.
—Disengagement was likely even higher for elementary students.
—More than 13,000 middle and high school students were consistently disengaged in fall 2020. An additional 56,000 did not actively participate on a daily basis.—Two-thirds of LA Unified students are falling behind in literacy and math. Fewer young students of color are on target in reading skills compared to a year earlier.
—Across all academic progress indicators, students of color, low-income students, English learners, foster children, students with disabilities and homeless students have been set back further than their more advantaged peers.
—Many high school students are at risk of not graduating. Currently, 20% of the class of 2021, 43% of the class of 2022, 37% of the class of 2023, and 30% of the class of 2024 will not graduate.
These numbers are —or should be —shocking and embarrassing to every adult involved in the operation of California schools, from Gov. Gavin Newsom downward. Not only are the futures of the affected children dimmer but their educational lapses will affect the entire state for decades to come.
About the Author
CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.